Jolene Van Vugt: The Bad Girl of ‘Nitro Circus’

And by bad, we mean total badass on a bike

Jolene Van Vugt may get ribbed quite a bit from her “brothers” on MTV’s “Nitro Circus,” but on the eve of the series’ Season 2 premiere (Thusday, Aug. 27, at 10:30 p.m. EST), the Ontario native was feeling nothing but love. Well, that and some aches from a broken wrist.

Photo by Sean Cliver

There was some footage of you at “Circus” ringmaster Travis Pastrana’s recent roast of you wearing a cast on your arm; what happened?
I’ve still got my bright, pink cast. I’m hoping to go to the surgeon next week, and hopefully he can get rid of it for me. I was training for the X Games, practicing at Travis’ house. He was training with me and another girl who’s going to race in the women’s supercross. I just came up short on a 65-foot triple and my wrist snapped on me. I had to go get it plated and get seven screws, and I’ve just been waiting for it to heal.

But this isn’t your first break, right?
No, absolutely not. I know my surgeon really well (laughs). This is the third surgery he’s performed on me.

Sounds like a poorly timed injury…
This is extremely the most poorly timed injury I’ve ever had. I’ve had to sit out from filming a few episodes. I’m still incorporated as much as possible, though. I was one of 10 women seeded to race at the X Games, which is a pretty prestigious little thing, and I had to sit and watch!

Photo by Sean Cliver

Does it ease the pain to know that you’re traveling the world with the rest of the “Nitro Circus” crew, being on the road with your best friends?
We have one of the craziest, most unique jobs that exist, and we kind of just created it for ourselves. We’re just a bunch of people who are close-knit and very lucky. We’ve become this family that just travel saround and does stunts. Anything from huge car-jumping and bike-jumping through the Grand Canyon, to base-jumping and then sometimes we do silly things like incorporate big wheels. It’s all across the board, and we have so much fun. We push the limit and push ourselves as far as we can take it, and push and compete with each other all the time. Those guys are like my brothers; messed-up, half-retarded brothers, but my brothers.

Going into the show, was there a certain stunt you’d heard about that you were fearful of?
Yeah, we come across quite a few stunts like that, where we’re hesitant or want to find out a bit more about it. I had couple stunts that I wanted to do or be a part of this year, but I thought I wasn’t capable of performing them the best I needed to, to make sure I wasn’t going to injure myself badly. I mean we get injured all the time. Bumps, bruises, small breaks, fractures … that happens, and we can push through it. But we all know the reality: There’s bigger risks of more intense accidents and potential death for some of the stuff we do. So sometimes you sit back and take a moment to reality-check yourself, and then you try from there. No matter what, though, once I commit to a stunt, I’m committed. In a lot of cases, when you fail to commit, that’s where a lot of bad injuries can happen.

Did you feel a lot of pressure to amp up the intensity of the stunts for the new season?
Yeah, for sure. Season 1 was awesome and jam-packed with so many stunts that we filmed for so long. I think we were a little overwhelmed when trying to think of our stunts for this second season. All of us thought, “Man, how are we going outdo Season 1?” And then we all came up with all these ideas and stuff that either led from ideas off the first season, or things that popped up that we really wanted to do. We just made a really good list and came in hot with so many amazing stunts. These first two episodes are full of stuff that is at least equal, if not tops, the first season. We knew from there that it was going to be a great rest of the season.

If you were the VP of “Nitro Circus” and Travis had to sit out for whatever reason, what would you do if you were in charge? How would you call the shots with these guys?
You know what, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know people think you just say it, but in all honesty, everyone knows what to do, we know what our goals are, what our place is, and how we work in the group to make the dynamic possible, and that’s why we’re such a melting pot. From me to Travis the friggin’ wonder boy to Tommy [Passamente] the construction worker, the average working joe who jumps and chucks himself off of the most gnarliest shit you’ve ever seen on skis, we’re different people who all have the same goal and passion for life, what we do and for the people around us.

Jolene and the rest of the “Nitro Circus” crew. Photo by Sean Cliver

You were involved in creating the National Series for Women in Canada a few years ago; is that your biggest source of pride?
That was four years ago, and I really thought it was important for women to attain some type of series so that they were able to get sponsorships. Sponsors aren’t looking to sponsor someone who might be in one race a year. If you can have a series that’s followed by the public and includes the girls who are traveling throughout the year, sponsors are way more receptive to putting it out there, to have women on teams, to give them travel budgets and free product and bikes and stuff like that. It was really important for me to make something like that work in Canada because I had struggled for so long myself, and my friends and I being in debt constantly, just because we wanted to follow our dreams and race dirtbikes, was a shitty thing. There was an intermission at a men’s race where the girls were put in halftime instead of the little kids; the promoter wanted the girls in. Afterward I asked him, “Why can’t we do this all of the time? Why is it not possible to do this 4-5 times a year and make it a women’s National Series?” I said, “It’s something women need, and it’s the only way women’s motocross is going to grow and survive.” He said yes, and we made it happen.

And then you went in and won it, right?
I did! (Laughs) I was pretty stoked about, to be the first woman to win this newly created women’s national series and to have a title. In the next year, I came in second to my friend Heidi [Cooke], who’s from Halifax, and the next year an American girl came up and she took first, Heidi got second and I got third. This year, I was unable to compete as we were filming and I was training for X Games.

It sounds like you need a breather from all of this action, though. You have a birthday coming up in September; any big plans?
I’m going to Vegas, baby! Me and some of my girlfriends are gonna go tear It up, girly style.